Thursday, May 8, 2008
Night at the beach
I got back from my work meeting okay. Last night I had field work to do. It was one of those times where I witnessed something that few people get to see. It was a major mating event for horseshoe crabs.
I got to the site where spawning occurs. It was supposed to be a training event for volunteers so that a routine census could be taken. The crabs started to move into the shallows just after dark. By close to high tide, there were thousands of them, mating and moving through the shallows. It was difficult to walk because there were so many. I have to say that it was one of the most awesome spectacles that I've seen in my career because of the sheer numbers of them.
Horseshoe crab mating is a lot like a bar scene. There is a desirous female who is using the seduction of pheromones to send out a message of availability. There are around 8 males for every one female and the boys hover around, with one being lucky enough to grasp hold of the female and fertilize her eggs. The other males are just "satellites" and often grasp each other because of the drive to fertilize the eggs. We called this a "gang bang".
Everyone there was amazed at this natural phenomenon. Even though we didn't finish up until after midnight, I think everyone was glad to have had this experience. When you consider that these crabs have been around for over 300 million years, it becomes even more imperative that we conserve their spawning beaches.
Hope to get around to visit everyone soon. It's been a busy couple of days.